Difference Between Dharma and Karma

By: | Updated: Jul-23, 2021

In the past, it was believed that the causes and effects of karma can be determined by looking at a person’s past actions. Nowadays, people are more concerned with the consequences of their actions rather than with their own intentions. The same thing is true in Buddhism. A Buddhist can get enlightenment, achieve Buddhahood, and work for the benefit of all sentient beings by following the teachings of Buddha. A person may also be reborn in hell as a result of committing evil deeds. The only difference is that the former will achieve his or her goals, while the latter will not.

In Buddhism, however, karma does not operate on a personal level. It operates at a universal level in that it affects all beings and phenomena in the universe without exception. Thus we can say that karma operates according to cause and effect. This is what the Buddha meant when he said that all phenomena are dependent on karma. However, dharma and karma are different.

But what is dharma? Is it not the same as karma? What are the differences between them? To answer these questions, this article will explain the definitions of dharma and karma, the causes and effects of both, as well as their relationship to each other.

Summary Table

Dharma Karma
A system of thought that every living being must follow to attain liberation The effect of actions we perform in life
Occurs in the mind because of our ignorance and also the desire for a future life Happens because of the desire for a future life
The basis of all happiness and good Creates bondage, suffering and delusion

Definitions

Difference Between Dharma and Karma

What is Dharma?

Dharma (pronounced “dhar-mah”) is the word that comes from the Sanskrit root dhri, which means “to do, to act”. Dharma refers to both a system of thought and an ethical and moral way of life. Dharma is a word that can be translated as religion or religious belief, but the word is often used to refer to a more general way of living. Dharma refers to the path one should follow, or the path that one should avoid. Dharma can also be translated as “truth” or “reality”.

What is Karma?

Karma is one of the most basic teachings of Buddhism. It states that all phenomena in this world are impermanent and suffer from decay. The reason for this suffering lies in karma; thus, the root cause of suffering in the world is karma.

Karma is the cause and effect of our actions. Karma includes both good and bad deeds, as well as their causes and effects. A deed may be considered good or bad depending on whether it benefits us or harms us, as well as whether we did it willingly or unwillingly.

For example, when we are young, our parents teach us to eat a healthy diet and play outdoors. However, if we do not follow their advice, they may scold us for being bad children. This is an example of a good deed that benefits us because it causes us to grow up healthier and happier.

If we do not follow our parents’ advice, they may punish us by taking away some of our favorite toys or telling us that we are bad children. This is an example of a bad deed that harms us because it causes us to grow up with self-esteem issues and guilt.

How are they related?

There are many types of karma, including karma related to the body, speech and mind. Karma that is related to the body includes the karmas of our parents, our physical characteristics and any diseases we may have contracted. Karma that is related to speech includes the karmas of lying, cheating, stealing and gossiping. Karma that is related to the mind includes the karmas of greed, hatred and delusion.

In Buddhism, karma is not a punishment for past deeds or wrongdoings; rather, it refers to actions we perform now in this life. If we do good deeds in this life, we will receive good karma. If we do bad deeds in this life, we will receive bad karma.

Dharma and karma are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While both refer to the way of life that one should follow, dharma refers to a system of thought while karma refers to actions we perform in this life. However, there is some overlap between them. For example, both karma and dharma refer to the effect of actions.

Dharma Vs. Karma

While karma and dharma are often used interchangeably, there are some differences between them. Now, let’s look at the key differences between karma and dharma.

  1. The Nature

It is said that karma refers to the effect of actions we perform in this life. In addition, according to Vedic literature, karma is a function of the mind. Karma does not exist independently of the person, but rather, it is an effect of one’s own actions.

Dharma on the other hand refers to a system of thought that every living being must follow in order to attain moksha or liberation from this life.

  1. The Cause

Karma refers to the effect of actions we perform in this life. However, it is not known what causes karma to happen. It is believed that karma occurs because of the accumulated and unfulfilled desires in our mind. Karma also happens because of the desire for a future life.

The cause of dharma is believed to be the mind. The mind is a product of the desires that we accumulate in this life. In addition, it is believed that dharma occurs because of our ignorance and also the desire for a future life.

  1. The Effects

The effect of karma is that it creates bondage, suffering and delusion. Karma has no respect for persons or beings. It destroys all that which we desire, love and cherish in this life.

Dharma on the other hand is believed to be the basis of all happiness and good. Dharma is believed to have a beneficial effect on us, our society and our world. It leads us to attain liberation from this life and enables us to live in eternal bliss.

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